To Heinie, With Love

Filmed December 1964

It was off the road and into the air force. A month following completion of my second THE FUGITIVE (DETOUR ON A ROAD GOING NOWHERE) I reported to 20th Century Fox to direct my first 12 O’CLOCK HIGH, a co-production of QM Productions and 20th Century Fox. I don’t know the exact details for this co-production arrangement, but I surmised (and I may have been wrong) that ABC wanted a series based on the 1949 film starring Gregory Peck, Quinn Martin was the fair-haired boy at the network because of the huge success the previous season of his series, THE FUGITIVE, and so the network bought 12 O’CLOCK HIGH from 20th Century Fox and put Quinn in charge of producing it.

That was my first association with 20th Century Fox, but I did not report to their main studio on West Pico Boulevard. 12 O’CLOCK HIGH was being filmed in Hollywood at the old Fox studio on Western Avenue at Sunset Boulevard, just a short distance from the Goldwyn Studio on Santa Monica Boulevard. Built in 1916 by William Fox, one of the pioneer creators of the film industry, the studio fairly reeked of ghosts of the past. This was where Tom Mix became one of the early western stars of film, where America born Theda Bara became one of the first International screen vamps, and where sweet little Janet Gaynor, co-starring with Charles Farrell, became a major star and won the first Academy Award for her performances in SEVENTH HEAVEN, SUNRISE and STREET ANGEL.

I liked the feel of the studio, much as I had felt about Desilu (the old RKO Radio Pictures studio) where I had filmed BREAKING POINT. The Fox Studio may have been dilapidated, it may have been small, but it was intimate and had character. It had tradition. The studio straddled Western Avenue; the producers’ offices and the soundstages were east of Western; a small exterior street and a small soundstage for process filming were on the lot west of the street. And there were friendly faces from my past. Producer Frank Glicksman was an old friend from our days at CBS. I had known casting director John Conwell forever — from his days as an actor on PLAYHOUSE 90 to his having cast my production of PRINTER’S DEVIL on TWILIGHT ZONE and my earlier episodes that season of THE FUGITIVE. Associate Producer Charles Larson was a new face for me, but we would be working together on fourteen more productions during the next two years. Charles was the story editor for the series and this first assignment, TO HEINIE, WITH LOVE was co-written by him.

Casting was easy. Twenty-four year old Keir Dullea had starred in two films I admired, THE HOODLUM PRIEST and DAVID AND LISA. (2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY was still three years in his future.) Jill Haworth had made her film debut in 1960 in Otto Preminger’s EXODUS and earlier that season had guest starred in an episode of 12 O’CLOCK HIGH. Quinn Martin was not averse to repeating good actors on his series. (The role of Sally Bowles in CABARET on Broadway was just a year in her future.) I trusted John Conwell on his suggestions for the Piccadilly Lily crew; some of them were returning, having appeared in earlier episodes of the series that season.

The following message appeared at the beginning of the 12 O’CLOCK HIGH feature film:

The air battle scenes in this
Motion Picture were photographed
in actual combat by members of
the United States Air Force and
the German Luftwaffe

Those same photographed battle scenes provided the stock footage for our air battle scenes. At this point I had limited experience with rear projection, just a few scenes involving automobiles, photographed on large empty soundstages. I was about to get an advanced crash course in the subject. A little more than a third of this episode was to be filmed with rear projection. QM productions were usually scheduled to shoot in seven days. Due to the amount of stock footage that would be used, TO HEINIE was scheduled for six days, the final two days to be shot on the process stage. The soundstage for this filming was an unusually small one. The rear projector with the background airplane footage was in one corner of the stage with the rear projection screen lined up in front of it. The section of the plane to be photographed was in front of that. The camera was in the opposite corner of the soundstage. As I remember it, there was just room for the operator to slip into his position behind the camera. It was very cramped quarters. Complicating the situation was the number of plane sections where scenes occurred. Each of them was a set to be moved in and then out. Then consider the number of film crew in that small space: camera, lighting, grips, props, wardrobe, makeup, hair, script supervisor, and don’t forget me. And finally the electrical equipment to light the set. As I said, it was very cramped quarters.

Scenes in film are not shot in sequence. There are factors (mostly related to budget) that determine the way a schedule is laid out. In the case of this film, the scenes of the plane in flight, which would be filmed in rear projection process, were scheduled for the last two days. Those scenes would require the presence of all of the Piccadilly Lily crew. Therefore it was financially beneficial to start those crew actors as late in the schedule as possible. This was accomplished by starting in Savage’s office the first day; of the crew only Magill was involved. The second day was a location on the Fox ranch with only Keir and Jill. The members of the crew were booked to start the third day on the location at Chino, and they worked every day from then till the completion of the film; their period of employment had been limited to four days.

Chino, about a half hour ride east of the studio, was where our airfield was located. The previous fight scene between Muller and Magill was filmed in process on the fifth day; the following scene was filmed in Chino on our third day — two days before the scene that preceded it.

At Chino we did not film planes landing or taking off. That came from stock footage. We did film planes taxiing.

The following scene, which followed the previous two sequences, was filmed on the first day of production.

I think the genesis for this episode came from the 12 O’CLOCK HIGH feature film, in which there was a scene where a lieutenant admitted to the general that his father was a Nazi Bund member. But the subject was never pursued. Also in the feature was a scene when a Colonal Gately reported to General Savage for a reprimand, stood at ease, and Savage ordered him to stand at attention, just as our General Savage ordered Magill to stand at attention.

William Spencer, the director of photography for 12 O’CLOCK HIGH, was away filming a pilot for QM Productions. His replacement was Gene Polito, son of Sol Polito who was one of the great cameraman of Hollywood. The elder Polito started in silent films and went on to film the classic THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, 42nd STREET, ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES, SERGEANT YORK, THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE, ARSENIC AND OLD LACE and on and on. Gene asked me when we began if it would be all right if he filmed everything with a 30mm lens. At this stage in my career I was not yet knowledgeable on the subject of lenses and I said okay. The fact that at that point I had been directing film for over three years and was directing my twenty-seventh project, points out the difference between me and the current knowledgeable graduates coming out of film schools into the profession. I was learning it on the set from masters of the craft, the old-fashioned way, the way Gene Ruggiero learned it.

Gene Ruggiero was a young man in New York in the early thirties, passionate about golf. He worked as a caddy at one of the exclusive New York country clubs and very often caddied for Nicholas Schenck, the head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on the east coast. Many days when the Schenck party was missing a fourth, Gene would be invited to play with them rather than caddy. One day after this happened Gene returned to the clubhouse to find a furious head pro. He berated Gene for neglecting his duties as a caddy in favor of playing and fired him on the spot. This mind you was during the depression. Gene took his problem to Mr. Schenck, hoping he might get some help in retrieving his job. Mr. Schenck’s reply was not to worry. He had a film studio on the west coast, he would send Gene out there with a letter that would secure employment for him. So Gene with a letter from Mr. Schenck boarded the train for the west coast. On the way he considered what his future might be; he decided he would like to be a cameraman. Arriving on the west coast Gene reported to the MGM studio in Culver City to find Mr. Schenck had sent a letter announcing his imminent arrival. He was assigned to the film editing department and there his beginning duties were to be a hot splicer. Film editors at that time (and they were still using the hot splicer when I came into film nearly thirty years later) did not complete the splice at the moviola. They cut the film where the edits would go and used a paper clip to attach the two parts to be spliced. The reel was then sent to the hot splicing department where young men and women would complete the joining of the two pieces of film via the hot splicer. Gene was not happy with this menial work and many days he would fail to show up at the studio; instead he went out to play his beloved golf. At those times he did manage to report to the studio on Thursdays to pick up his check at the cashier’s window. Eventually Gene was promoted out of the splicing department to be an assistant film editor, working under one of the studio’s contract editors. During that time he assisted on many of the Johnny Weissmuller TARZAN films. Eventually he was given an occasional opportunity to edit a sequence. This was his training and learning period.

In 1939 a noted director was returning to MGM to direct a movie. The head of the film editing department discovered he had a problem. Because of the director’s reputation based on his previous work at the studio, all of the film editors in his department refused to accept the assignment to edit the film. He finally turned to assistant film editor Gene Ruggiero and assigned him to the project. The director was Ernst Lubitsch. The star of the film was Greta Garbo. The film was NINOTCHKA, one of the smash hits of 1939 and possibly the most commercially successful film Miss Garbo ever made. And that was Gene Ruggiero’s first film editing credit.

I worked with Gene on a pilot for Norman Rosemont in 1981. Gene was seventy years old and still going strong. He had won an Academy Award in 1957 for editing AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS. One day Norman, Gene and I were talking and Norman was extolling the virtues of the Kem film editing machine. I never worked with the Kem. I never even saw a Kem. But I understand it was a flatbed machine with the editor sitting in front of a fairly large screen, the film rolling past him. When the editor saw where he wanted an edit, he stopped the film, made his mark and then continued. As Norman raved on and on, Gene looked at me and with a smile on his face quietly shook his head. He held up his right hand and rubbed his thumb against his second and third fingers. “You can’t feel the film,” he said. I love that line. You can’t feel the film. I’ve always felt that applied to the whole way I was indoctrinated into film making – TO FEEL THE FILM.

The Fox ranch at the west end of the San Fernando Valley was the location for our second day of filming. It was very similar to the MGM lot #3, only not as conveniently located. The script called for two shots of a quail running away; in the shooting script the shots were designated to come out of stock. But then it was discovered that they did not have stock shots of a quail running away and I would have to film them. When I questioned just how we did that, I was assured there would be no problem; we would have a quail wrangler.

When it came time to do the shots of the quail, I set up the shot, the quail wrangler placed the bird on her mark, but when I called action the bird ran off in the wrong direction. Take 2. Cut. Let’s do it again. Take 3. Again. Take 4. It was finally realized that the bird did not understand me. I obviously wasn’t speaking Quail language. A piece of string tied to one of her legs corrected that and convinced her to follow my directions. And I never placed my faith in a quail wrangler again! In fact I never again directed a quail!

Shooting out of sequence again, the following scene was filmed three days before the scene that preceded it.

I think this episode illustrates most clearly the difficulties actors face because of film being shot out of sequence. Keir Dulleia filmed the next scene on the second day of production, days before the two previous sequences that preceded it.

Continuing, Keir filmed the following scene, his final confrontation on the subject, on the first day of filming.

Filming the men reaching up and pulling themselves into the plane could sometimes become very humorous. The series’ regulars had no problem, but some of the guest crew had difficulty, many times necessitating cutting away to another shot and letting the audience’s imagination fill in the difficult hoist.

Jimmie (and I don’t remember his last name) had come to Hollywood from Tennessee as a member of Elvis Presley’s entourage. Somewhere along the line he had broken away from the group to work in Hollywood as an extra. By the time of 12 O’CLOCK HIGH he had become a series’ stand-in. As such he was also used as a background character and when possible (to provide extra income for him) for special business. In the following sequence (which was very scary to shoot) he was the airman in an asbestos suit who was set on fire

When I finished filming TO HEINIE…, my agent called and said they wanted to book me for three more 12 O’CLOCK HIGH’s, which would finish out my season. I had a problem with this. Arthur Fellows, the executive in charge of post-production, had a standing rule; directors were not allowed in the editing rooms. I turned the offer down. I told my agent I preferred working for production companies where I would be allowed to go into the editing rooms. My agent called the next day to say that he had delivered that message to Quinn, and Quinn’s answer was, “Ralph can go into the editing rooms here”. And so for the next decade Arthur Fellows constantly teased me with the fact that I was the only director he allowed into his editing rooms. I liked Arthur; I had great respect for him. He really knew film. (Also on A FAREWELL TO ARMS he had decked David O. Selznick.)

One more sidebar bit of information: One day driving out to our Chino location Jack Aldworth, the assistant director on this episode, told me of an incident many years before when he was on a distant mountain location for a feature film starring Glenn Ford. When Glenn arrived at the location he immediately began checking to be sure that all of the rules for location filming were being followed. And he was not shy about raising a fuss if he found any instances where there were infractions of the required rules. Jack, as the assistant director, was the recipient of these complaints, one of which was that the required medical emergency supplies were not present. Ford demanded that they must be secured or he would not film. Jack said he was pissed; the securing of these supplies fell on his already over-burdened shoulders, but he reluctantly and begrudgingly complied with Ford’s demands. Weeks later there was an emergency; a member of the crew had a heart attack, and the medical equipment that had been so reluctantly secured probably saved his life. That crew member whose hand was held by Glenn Ford as he was carried on a stretcher and placed in an ambulance? Jack Aldworth.

The journey continues

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5 Responses to To Heinie, With Love

  1. Leslie says:

    Thanks for sharing that Ralph. The story bears special significance as I have just viewed that episode on Television recently and remarked on its historical significance.
    Whatsmore, my Uncle(FLT J Kirkpatrick) of the RAF was shot down during a significant battle in that war. The fact that the series uses actual footage from allied forces in combat adds yet another level or realism.
    Job well done!

  2. John B. says:

    Thanks for all the info on this episode and, especially, for all the background stuff on the old Fox studio. Wasn’t it sold off or burned in a fire a few years later? I think I read that somewhere.

    Solid direction, just okay script in my opinion. There wasn’t enough suspense, as it was clearly set up from the beginning that Heinie would turn out alright. Yes, there was the picture of his father with the swastika and all but that was obviously a red herring. I was never really suspicious of the guy. It was a character study, worked well as such.

    It surprised me that that the lovely Jill Haworth, prominently listed in the credits, didn’t have that much to do. I haven’t seen her in much but she did an Outer Limits in which I found her cute, winsome and adorable, yet the way she was made up for Heinie didn’t flatter her. She looked alright but not like the babe that I’ve seen in other shows and films.

    Oh well. That was the makeup department’s fault! Keir Dullea was far better than I’d remembered from my last viewing of the ep many years ago, and I couldn’t help but think that he was truly a new type of actor in American films and television back then.

    Like Dean Stockwell and, in a different key, Anthony Perkins, Dullea was (potentially anyway) a sort of New Man in those days, on big and little screens alike, as he appeared to be striving for a kind of near European level of thoughtfulness and sensitivity one doesn’t associate with young American males. Nor was he effeminate in the least. Just different. He was light years away from the likes of, say (no offense), Don Dubbins and Andrew Prine; or boys next door like Jim Hutton and Dean Jones.

    Dullea’s near alien qualities worked well in this ep, as he was supposed to come off as different. He never became a real star, his 2001 casting notwithstanding. I’ve liked his work on occasion, respect his quiet, offbeat daring to cut against the grain. I think his “European” qualities (as I see it) made him a hard well. Nor did he show much humor in his playing.

    Fine directing, as usual.

  3. hcg drops says:

    I enjoyed reading this. Thank a lot for posting that. I’ll definitely check back to find out more and inform my acquaintenances about it, hcg.

  4. Phil says:

    I recently started a mini-marathon of ‘TOH’, which included re-watching this episode. I missed this guy the first time: Greg Mullavey (far right) at 3:12 of the first video. IMDB has no record of this, but I’m 99.9% sure it’s him.

    • Ralph says:

      I don’t remember Greg working on that show, but it sure looks like him. The following year he did an acting role in WHEN THE WIND BLOWS. It’s possible he was doing extra work before he moved up to a SAG role.

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